I may be shouted at for this next statement: pipeline is the responsibility of marketing.

I’ve worked in, and led, several marketing departments and we get a bad reputation for doing ridiculously fluffy stuff or just ‘colouring in’. The reality is that marketing is accountable for 2 things:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Pipeline

So if your pipeline is struggling to achieve 3x coverage, your first stop needs to be the marketing department. It’s through your marketing activities that you can craft specific campaigns that generate leads for today, and then establish the longer-term mechanisms to generate a steady drip feed of leads for tomorrow.

“Ooh, but that sounds expensive.”

As a startup or a small business, marketing budgets are always limited – assuming you even have a set budget in the first place. But that doesn’t mean that certain tactics or channels are off-limits to you, that you should be prepared to cut corners, or that the results you can expect are limited. All it means is that you need to invest in the right channels…

And be prepared to get a little bit creative!

Creativity tip 1: increase your budget

If you’re a reseller, or if you partner with other organisations to deliver certain services, you need to start by exploring the ‘marketing development funds (MDF)’ that are available to you.

All the big vendors have invested in their channel marketing offering, and part of this is providing funding to help you run your own lead generation campaigns – many even have ‘out-of-the-box’ campaigns and promotions that you can use as-is, or tailor to fit your company’s messaging.

Start by identifying where the money is, and what you need to do to secure it. Usually the help available is tied to your partnership status, so it’s worth having an initial conversation with your account manager.

However, it’s also worth knowing that individual product teams might have their own resources that you can tap into, separate to what your partnership status entitles you to. Therefore, if you’re planning a particular push into cloud, data, cyber security or a vertical, it’s worth approaching the vendor’s specific product/sector teams to see how they can support you.

When I worked as a marketing manager, I manage to fund pretty much an entire year’s worth of marketing activities with MDF alone.

And if you’re not working with vendors…

Do you partner with any other businesses?

If so, you could explore the idea of running a joint campaign that you co-fund. Not only will this reduce the investment you need to make, it widens your network as your partner will be promoting you out into their ecosystem.

Creativity tip 2: invest in the best

Particularly when budgets are limited, you need to make every penny work for you. Therefore, if you don’t have the skills inhouse, look to outsource so your lead generation efforts are the best they can be so they convert to build your pipeline.

There’s an amazing community of freelancers out there who specialise in different creative disciplines – I know, because I’m one of them. We dedicate hours to honing our craft so that we can deliver the best work possible to our clients. And because we don’t have large overheads, it means that you’re getting agency-grade work and a more reasonable price point.

You don’t need to cut corners and try to do marketing ‘on the cheap’. Invest in a few things that matter to your audience and the results will pay dividends.

For example, to build my reputation I need a strong brand, which is why I hired someone to help create my visual identity. And because I want people to choose whether they think I’m the right copywriter for them, rather than me cold call and harass them into submission, I invest in an SEO specialist to help me be found.

Creativity tip 3: re-spin, re-purpose and re-form

“Sweat the assets.”

It’s a horrible business term, but when budgets are tight and pipeline lacking, that’s exactly what you need to do. I’m a huge fan of taking existing content and transforming it into something different to give it a new lease of life.

When you re-spin, re-purpose and re-form content, it actually strengthens the results of your marketing efforts because you’re able to build momentum behind your campaign and everything was formed from a single piece of content. This means that the messaging is consistent, the positioning is consistent, the purpose is consistent, and it’s this consistency that will help you to grow a strong brand in your marketplace.

Achieving it is a lot simpler than you might think, and I’ve written another article dedicated to it here:

Read more about how to re-spin, re-purpose and re-form content…